Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Fitness Wall

I've never really stuck at an exercise programme long enough to really notice patterns, or the rhythms my body puts itself through as it increases it's fitness levels. I've never really been fit at all.

After my first baby, I lost the baby weight by crash dieting (I know, I know, really stupid idea!). Thankfully I got pregnant again before the weight could pile back on, and then I had a legitimate reason for it piling back on. And pile back on it did, the same 26kgs reappeared during my second pregnancy as they had the first.

After my son was born, I decided that I needed to do it properly, sensibly. No crash dieting and it was time for exercise. My daughter was walking, and running, and climbing and jumping, and I was huffing and puffing along behind her. She was 18 months old....

I knew that if I didn't get fit, she was soon going to outrun me. She's really really fast when she puts her mind to it. We live in a busy city with roads all around and people everywhere. I needed to keep up with her, without killing myself.

My fitness journey has been just that, a journey, with ups and downs and hills and mountains to climb. I didn't expect it to be easy, but I did expect it to be linear. I expected my fitness to gradually improve, and that did not happen.

My fitness has progressed in fits and spurts. It leaps about. It is never still, but sometimes it goes backwards.

For the first two months, it was linear. The first session was so hard at The Circuit Factory that I thought I was never going to be able to walk again. As the weeks went on, I felt my muscles get stronger, by tiny degrees, but still stronger. I felt my body start to change and morph into a body that had actual muscles to build, and something to do with those muscles I was building.

Then I hit a wall. A solid brick wall that I had to push through, but that did not want to give. My body went into shock. I developed bronchitis and then tendonitis in my right foot. I had six weeks off from exercise to allow my body to heal, but the return was just the same.

It was like walking through treacle. On the run, my lungs didn't just burn, they ached with the stress and the strain. My legs wouldn't do what my brain was telling them to do, they were moving, but out of sync, out of time, not really keeping rhythm with my lungs or my heart.

My brain couldn't get commands through during the circuits. Could barely put together a watered down burpee. Press ups suddenly turned into some mystic quadratic equation, and chest presses felt like I was lifting Mount Everest on my chest.

This continued, week after week after week. It wasn't until I hit six months of solid training that I saw any improvement.

And then I took off like a bullet. It was as though all the weight had been taken away. I was no longer moving through concrete. Something had clicked in my body and it was suddenly all in sync. My body responded to my brain, my heart pumped in time to the rhythm of my body's movements. My body suddenly felt like it knew that it could do this.

In three consecutive sessions, I dropped 2 minutes and 34 seconds from my 1 mile run time. In THREE sessions. Each time I was convinced I had lost time, that I wasn't going to maintain my personal best, and each time I smashed that personal best into tiny pieces.

It didn't get easier, The Circuit Factory never gets any easier, you just work harder, there is no option but to work at your peak, the instructors won't let you take it easy. My body seemed to flow better, to move through the exercises better.

I started lifting heavier weights. I can now do prisoner squats with a 15kg weight on my shoulders. I can box with 10kgs in each hand. It hurts, it aches and it burns and my lungs gasp for air, but somehow it just works.

I know that this speed of improvement can't continue. I know that I won't knock 30 seconds off my personal best the next time I run, and I'm sure I'll hit another brick wall soon enough.

But the feeling of my body getting stronger, leaner, faster, fitter... it's exhilarating. My body works. It moves and it dances in ways that I never thought possible. I really feel now that I live in my body, and that I am pulling the levers.

I almost gave up during every week of those three months I spent wading through treacle. I thought that my body just wasn't up to the challenge. That I wasn't cut out for this exercise regime, that I should have chosen another way to get fit.

So for those of you who are wading through the treacle, who are losing energy and enthusiasm, keep going. Because when you get out to the other side, you'll be amazed by the things you can do, and how well your body can work with you, not against you.

And not wearing a watch through your 1 mile run also helps. I have no idea what time I'm doing, so I can never be complacent. I'm always pushing, always burning, always striving, because I'm sure I'm going to miss, sure I'm going to fail.

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